A Kent producer which grows more than 60 different crops has been presented with a top conservation award for its work supporting farmland birds and rare plant species.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents hundreds of farmers, landowners and rural businesses across the county, awarded its Emsden Trophy.

The awards presentation and drinks reception was hosted by last year’s winner, Fidelity Weston of Romshed Farm near Sevenoaks.

The 2023 recipient is Watts Farms, a family-run business headquartered in Aylesford, nominated by Kent Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) for its work supporting and improving diverse habitats.

It farms over 600 hectares of land, growing dozens of varieties of vegetables, fruits, salads and herbs from asparagus to mint, supplying over 500 restaurants as well major retailers and the NHS.

Joe Cottingham, Director at Watts Farms, said: “We are absolutely delighted and very proud that Watts Farms has been awarded this year’s Emsden trophy.

“We have been working hard on the environmental culture and philosophy, both on the farm and in the production facility. Environmental impact and taking care of our land is a key pillar of our culture, now and for the future.

“We very much see ourselves as caretakers of the land we farm for future generations, and as such monitor all of our actions against the environment, to ensure that the baton can be passed on.”

Recent projects include improving soil structure and increasing the pollinator population by introducing legume-rich mixes including phacelia and vetch mixes, and working with Farningham Woods nature reserve to improve habitats which has resulted in a rise in Deptford pinks – an endangered species.

Meanwhile the wetland area helps to increase the dragon fly population that in turn has seen an uplift in birds such as the Hobby that reside along the woodland edges. In recent years Nightjar have also returned.

Kent FWAG adviser Paul Cobb said: “Watts Farms is an excellent example of a modern efficient farm business supplying to a demanding market that devotes time and resources to conserving wildlife on its farms.

“The interest and dedication shown by the team at Watts Farms in encouraging and monitoring species of conservation concern such as farmland birds and the rare Deptford Pink is really inspiring.”

CLA South East Regional Director Tim Bamford said: “Many congratulations to Watts Farms, a very worthy winner. The CLA is always thrilled to recognise the conservation and environmental efforts of farmers, and this year is no different.

“Farmers and landowners across the Garden of England are custodians of the landscape, as well as helping to feeding the nation, and we’re proud to celebrate their work in this small way.

“Thank you to Fidelity for hosting the tour and presentation, and we’re already looking forward to visiting Watts next summer to see first-hand the impressive work they do.”

The event, which is supported by BTF Partnership, is held in memory of Brigadier Brian Emsden, the Kent and Sussex CLA Regional Secretary in the 1980s who died of cancer in post. He was very keen on wildlife and conservation, hence the award in his name.

CLA members touring the Pasture for Life, organic Romshed Farm near Sevenoaks in Kent